Joan's Premiere Skirt

70 years ago Walt Disney's live action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men had its premiere in London at the Leicester Square Theatre. Here is our lovely Joan Rice (1930-1997) wearing a specially designed skirt for the occasion. 

I wonder what happened to that skirt? 

It was possibly designed by Walt Disney's promotional team. The newspapers described Joan arriving in a limousine with Robin Hood motifs along the trim of her tulle skirt. Her velvet bodice was in Lincoln Green, of course! 

The Disney Magic

Prince John watches his brother King Richard leave on Crusade

Prince John (Hubert Gregg) watches his brother King Richard and his Crusading army leave for the Holy Land. One of my favourite scenes from Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). This film contained so many visual feasts! It left me sitting spellbound in my local cinema.

It is difficult to describe to the younger generation what it was like growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Our television was in grainy black a white, with a very small screen. Hi-definition and recording a programme off of it was something yet to be invented.

So visiting a cinema was not only a treat but an immersive experience, especially if the film was in colour!

Nottingham Castle

One of the first TV programmes I can remember watching was the Richard Greene series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1959). I was also a huge fan of everything Walt Disney produced. So, when I had the chance to see Disney's live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood at my local Granada Cinema, I was buzzing with excitement. 

I saw it three times that week! 

A disguised Marian finds Alan a Dale

Disney's Story of Robin Hood inspired an interest in the outlaw's legend that has never left me. It also led to my love of history and genealogy. 

So, I started this blog as a way of making others aware of this now almost forgotten Technicolor masterpiece. 

But what made this version of the legend so special for me? 

Nottingham Archery Tournament

Where do I begin? To start with it oozes quality, in the host of actors, chosen by casting director Maud Spector. Stars like Peter Finch, Richard Todd, James Hayter, Martitia Hunt and Joan Rice- to name a few. The crews behind the camera are; legendary art director Carman Dillon and directors Ken Annakin and Alex Bryce. Also Director of Photography Guy Green, later to become co-founder of the British Society of Cinematographers.

I could go on and on.

It was Disney legend Perce Pearce who was chosen by Walt Disney to supervise and produce the film in England. It would be the last major movie to be made in Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire using some of its huge sound stages.

Friar Tuck

Perce Pearce, Richard Todd, Carmen Dillon, scriptwriter Lawrence Edward Watkin and other members of the production unit made several research visits to Nottinghamshire and its archives during the Spring of 1951. It is this close attention to detail and respect for the legend that I admire and shows in the final cut.

The five images in this article demonstrate the visual beauty of this film, they were created by the legendary matte artist Peter Ellenshaw- another Disney legend, working many decades before the invention of computer generated imagery. 

Ellenshaw's artistic skill, together with Carmen Dillon's art department created that storybook quality to the film. It is not surprising it was voted one of the best Technicolor movies ever made in Britain. Disney Magic!


Joan Rice Sponsors Innoxa Fashion Cream

Joan Rice promoting Innoxa in1954

Above is an advert dated by the Innoxa company to 1954, featuring the beautiful English actress Joan Rice (1930-1997). 

Joan rose to fame as Maid Marian in Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). This site is dedicated to her memory.

Joan promoted Innoxa Fashion Cream, described by the company as:

 ... far more than ordinary cake make-up and ideal for all types of skin. Needs no water and keeps the skin soft and radiant.
Shades: Honey Blonde, Sun Glow, and Golden Sand.

The year that the Innoxa advert appeared witnessed a turning point in Joan's film career. During December 1953, Joan had given birth to a son Michael, then  January 1954 saw the release of the lavish Technicolor adventure His Majesty O'Keefe. Joan played the beautiful island girl Dalabo Aki Dali alongside Burt Lancaster. 

Joan Rice as Dalabo

But, after the release of The Crowded Day in October 1954, Rank Organisation did not renew her contract. There is a lot of speculation as to why this happened. Some claim it was her struggle with asthma that curtailed her career. But I am not so sure.

Joan as Peggy French in The Crowded Day

In January 1955, Joan appeared in Norman Wisdom's second movie One Good Turn. A month later, she was photographed by the press leaving London airport en route for Dublin to appear on stage in the play Welcome Stranger at the Gaiety Theatre. Sadly the magical whirlwind that had lifted her to the dizzy heights of Hollywood was waning.

To read more about the life of Joan Rice, please click on the label.

Walt Disney Visits the Robin Hood Set

Richard Todd, Walt Disney and Joan Rice

Here is a collection of publicity shots of Walt Disney with Richard Todd (Robin Hood) and Joan Rice (Maid Marian). In July 1951, just as his cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland was released in America, Disney visited Europe with his wife Lillian and their daughters to supervise his second live-action movie, The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) which was financed again by the blocked monies of RKO and Disney. Apparently he was thoroughly pleased with the way things were going.

Walt Disney greets Joan Rice (Maid Marian)

Before leaving America, Walt had screened films at the studio, looking at prospective actors and directors and making what he himself called ‘merely suggestions’, while he left the final decisions to Perce Pearce, who was producing. For his part, Pearce had laid out every shot in the movie in thumbnail sketches, or storyboards, just as the studio had done with the animators, and sent them on along with photostats and the final script to Walt for his approval, which Walt freely gave, though not without a veiled threat that Pearce had better make the film as quickly as possible. “This is important not only to the organisation but to you as the producer,” he wrote.

Another publicity shot of Walt with Joan and Richard

In his biography Caught in the Act, Richard Todd described Perce Pearce as a jolly, rubicund Pickwickian figure. 

Perce Pearce with Richard Todd

Todd is vague in how he was chosen to play the part of Robin Hood for Disney. He didn't remember if it was through his agent or the legendary film maker himself.  But, after agreeing to play the part of the outlaw he met Perce Pearce and Maud Spector (the casting director) at the Dorchester Hotel in London and went through lists of candidates for parts in the film. Todd's only contribution was to suggest James Robertson Justice as Little John.

Walt Disney enjoys a picnic with Robin and Marian

What is certain is Disney personally chose Joan Rice to play the part of Maid Marian. Todd doesn't mention Joan in his biography but Ken Annakin, the director on The Story of Robin Hood, does. He depreciatingly describes Joan as Disney's, Achilles Heel and only fit to be somebody's house maid

Audiences around the world disagreed with Annakin.

Neil's fantastic website Films of the Fifties contains an extremely interesting article on how Joan was treated on the set of Disney's Story of Robin Hood:

The Story of Robin Hood Poster


Above is an undated poster I have recently discovered for Walt Disney's live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men. We now have an impressive collection of these from all over the world and they can be found by clicking on the 'poster' label on this blog.

This recent discovery is very similar to the one below:

Both seem to be from same period, but when was that? 

IMDb state that apart from its first showing in 1952, the film was re-released in the UK on the 28th of July 1957 and the 19th of September 1971.

If anyone can put a date on these two posters, please get in touch.

Joan Rice, Ivanhoe & Robin Hood's Chair

Joan Rice as Marcia

Over the past 16 years I have attempted to piece together the life of Joan Rice (1930-1997). This blog is dedicated to her memory.

Joan liked it to be known that she was Walt Disney's 'first' Maid Marian. She was personally chosen by the legendary film producer to appear alongside Richard Todd in the live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

I have known for many years that Joan Rice appeared in the TV series Ivanhoe (1958), but until recently I have never had an opportunity to watch it. But at last I have managed to see the particular episode on Youtube and it was good.

In an episode called The Night Raiders, Joan played the part of Marcia, a farmer's daughter who is abducted by a group of night riders terrorising a village. A young Roger Moore plays Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe, son of Sir Cedric of Rotherwood. The TV series was based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott and set during the reign of King Richard the Lionheart. The Crusades have ended in disaster for the English king, who is believed dead - and the running plot of this series mostly concerns Prince John's various efforts to claim the English throne and Ivanhoe's attempts to secure justice for the populace despite John's illicit rule.

Joan would have been familiar with this particular time in history after her appearance as the girlfriend of Robin Hood, six years earlier and assisting the outlaw in his duels with the cold-blooded Sheriff of Nottingham and evil Prince John. 

Roger Moore as Ivanhoe

This swashbuckling TV series was typical of the period. Shows like The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, The Adventures of Lancelot and later the Adventures of Richard the Lionheart were all aimed at the younger audiences of the late 1950's and early 1960's.

While watching this particular episode of Ivanhoe, I was surprised to catch a glimpse of one of 'Robin Hood's Chairs'!

My regular blog readers will know about the 'Robin Hood's Chairs'. They were created by Carmen Dillon's art department for Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men in 1951 and Joan Rice would have remembered them from her days filming on the sound stages at Denham Studio.

The chair in The Story of Robin Hood

And here it is again below, in the Ivanhoe episode in which Joan Rice appeared.

The chair in the episode of Ivanhoe

Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men was the last major production made at Denham Studios and this huge complex later merged with the Rank Organisation's Pinewood Studios. Laurence points out that The Black Knight was made at Pinewood, which probably explains the availability of the chairs as props. 

Because of our discoveries, I have compiled a list of some of the film and television productions that have used those Robin Hood Chairs:

The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (Film:1952)

The Men of Sherwood Forest (Film:1954)

The Black Knight (Film:1954)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (TV:1955-58)

The Dark Avenger (Film:1955)

Ivanhoe (TV:1958) Ep.The Night Raiders.

Sword of Sherwood Forest (Film:1960)

Robin of Sherwood (TV:1984-86)

Horrible Histories (TV: 2013-15)

To read more about Joan Rice (1930-1997) and much more click on the labels.

Rare Robin Hood Scoper and Film Strips


Over the years, we have discovered many items connected in some way to Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952). Under the Memorabilia link on this blog, there is a collection of letterheads, tins, records, bows and arrows, cards, posters, books, jigsaw puzzles and much more!

There are plenty more. The Disney Organisation had - and still has an incredible marketing system.

Matt Crandall has recently sent me images of this very rare toy from the 1950s. When I was young, I would have loved something like this. Before the days of videos and DVDs, this was one of the only ways to remember your favourite film. 

If you know of any other memorabilia connected to this Walt Disney live action film, please get in touch.

Joan Rice as Marian

Joan Rice as Maid Marian


This beautiful movie still of Joan Rice as Maid Marian has recently appeared on an auction site. I have never seen this before. Regular contributor John Nelson has also made me aware of this.

Joan appeared as Maid Marian in Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

Doesn't she look so beautiful and happy?

Recently I featured the design by Michael Whitaker for Joan's costume, which has also been up for auction. 

John has now purchased Whitaker's original drawing and displays it in a quality frame under fade-resistant glass. 

Michael Whitaker's design

Elton Hayes Comic Strip


Occasionally a rare item will appear that has connections to Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952). This is a comic strip featuring Elton Hayes ' telling a story.' The item is not dated and only one page survives, it seems to have been printed c.1940's.

How many actors that played the role of Alan-a-Dale in a Robin Hood production were real minstrels? I can only think of one. Elton Hayes (1915-2001).

Elton was a  fascinating person and one of many people involved in The Story of Robin Hood that I would have loved to have met. One person that did meet him was Sallie Walrond and in her book, 'Trot on: Sixty Years of Horses' she says:

When Elton Hayes came to live at Thorne Lodge I was delighted to meet him. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word, incredibly wise and with a kind but quick sense of humour and bright as a button right up until his death. I remember as a child listening to him on the radio singing The Owl and the Pussycat and seeing him as the minstrel Allan-a-Dale in a favourite Robin Hood starring Richard Todd.

(Trot On: Sixty Years of Horses by Sallie Walrond and Anne Grimshaw, Kenilworth Press, 2004) 

Elton Hayes

Below is an article about Elton from 1954:

Elton Hayes has been singing to a small guitar ever since he bought a sixpenny ukulele as a school boy. The smooth easy manner in which he sings those old English ballads and folk songs has come with many years of training in the theatre.

Elton was born in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, but spent most of his school days in Leicester. His parents were both in the entertainment business - his father was in the circus and his mother was a singer.

It was natural that Elton should want to follow in his parents footsteps. He toured the country with them, and while they performed on stage, he would sit in the wings watching, and learning how show business worked.

He soon mastered the sixpenny ukulele which he bought with his pocket money, and by the time he was ten years old he could play nearly every stringed instrument.

But Elton wanted to be a straight actor. However fate turned his career in other directions. He became interested in old English folk songs and ballads.

When the war started in 1939 Elton joined the army and became a gunner in the Royal Artillery. He was posted overseas in India and decided to take his guitar with him. He was also given a commission.

While in India he became seriously ill with rheumatic fever. This was a tragedy for Elton. for his fingers began to stiffen.

One day he remembered his guitar. He took it from its case and began strumming it. And soon, after  many hours of painful effort his fingers grew more supple. He could play again. His courage had brought him through.

In 1946 Elton returned to Britain and appeared on In Town Tonight. This was a beginning. For, like thousands of other ex-serviceman, he found that he had to begin building a career again.

Just how successful he has been can be judged from the number of programmes he has appeared in on radio and television.

He has had a record spot on nearly every major radio station on the Continent and the BBC. He has appeared in his own show on television and was a permanent member of Eric Barker's Just Fancy. And of course he makes gramophone records.

When the film Robin Hood  was made in this country, the producers did not have to search far for the man to play the strolling minstrel - Elton Hayes was a  natural choice."

After suffering a stroke in 1995, Hayes had to give up the farm he owned and moved to live with friends, who cared for him until his death. He married in 1942, Betty Inman, who died in 1982. There is much more on the life of Elton Hayes on this site including his discography. Just click on the label for Elton Hayes.